BROOKLYN — Iranian journalist and activist Masih Alinejad says she didn’t believe the FBI agents at first when they told her why they were at her home eight months ago.
She was being targeted by the Iranian government to be kidnapped.
Alinejad says she didn’t take it seriously because she receives death threats daily, until they showed her photographic evidence that she was being followed by a private investigator in New York City hired by Iranian men overseas.
The U.S. citizen has over five million followers on Instagram and her posts are videos sent to her from the Iranian people, she says, exposing the brutality of the regime.
The Department of Justice says four Iranian operatives plotted to kidnap her from U.S. soil in order to keep her silent.
U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss released a statement.
“As alleged, four of the defendants monitored and planned to kidnap a U.S. citizen of Iranian origin who has been critical of the regime’s autocracy, and to forcibly take their intended victim to Iran, where the victim’s fate would have been uncertain at best,” Strauss said.
In a one-on-one interview with PIX11 News, Alinejad says it’s scary, but she’s not a criminal.
“I’m a journalist and my only crime is giving a voice to voiceless people,” Alinejad said.
She wants to see the Biden Administration and the western world take action.
“What I want is simple,” she said. “This is the 21st century. Do not just go and negotiate with hostage takers, kidnappers, without recognizing civil society, without considering about human rights. Do not bury human rights under the nuclear deal.”
Journalists and activists from around the world who speak out against the Iranian government have been kidnapped and jailed by Iran.
“We are talking about a government which is acting like ISIS, to be honest.” Alinejad adds. “What is different between ISIS and the Islamic Republic? ISIS takes hostages, the Islamic Republic does the same. ISIS beheads people, the Islamic Republic hangs people.”
Alinejad says her family back in Iran is being punished for her actions here and not participating in her kidnapping.
“I cannot breathe when I think about my brother in prison just because of my activities,” she said. “I have to make a decision to care only about my own family, who I miss them, or care about my bigger family — Iranian people.”
This attempted kidnapping isn’t silencing her, but instead is amplifying her voice.
“I have only two options: to feel miserable every day or make my oppressors feel miserable,” Alinejad said. “I chose the second one.”
The FBI says the Iranian men were planning to somehow get her on a military-style speedboat to Venezuela, a country that has friendly relations with Iran.
A spokesperson with Iranian Foreign Ministry says the kidnapping is an “imaginary plot” calling the accusations “baseless and ridiculous.”